Tanker Cargo Rises 32% on Saudi Exports, Arctic Says

March 20 (Bloomberg) -- The supply of crude oil cargoes for the largest tankers rose 32 percent so far this year as Saudi Arabia boosted exports to compensate for the possibility of fewer Iranian cargoes, Arctic Securities ASA said.

Very large crude carriers hauled 97 million metric tons of oil in the first 11 weeks of the year, up from 73.7 million tons during the same period of 2011, Oslo-based analyst Erik Nikolai Stavseth said by phone today, referring to about 65 percent of single-voyage, or spot, charters. Shipments strengthened as Saudi Arabia boosted production before an embargo on Iranian oil takes effect in July, he said.

The U.S., the world’s biggest oil consumer, imported an average of 1.5 million barrels a day from Saudi Arabia this year, on course for the highest quarterly average since September 2008, according to preliminary data from the Energy Department. China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., also known as Sinopec, booked 14 VLCCs to load cargoes in the Persian Gulf last week, according to investment bank Dahlman Rose & Co.

“This is Iran playing into the market,” Stavseth said. “The 2012 volume is 4 percent lower than the volume shipped in the same period in 2007, which was a peak year in the world economy, which tells me that demand is strong.”

The number of crude cargoes hauled to Asia on VLCCs from the Middle East jumped 34 percent from the prior year to 229 in the period, Stavseth said. Shipments of West African oil to Asia rose by the same amount, and deliveries to the region from the U.S. increased 19 percent to 37, he said.

Rates for the vessels on the benchmark Saudi Arabia-to-Japan route advanced 32 percent to 65.66 industry standard Worldscale points since the start of this year, according to the Baltic Exchange in London.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rob Sheridan in London at rsheridan6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alaric Nightingale at anightingal1@bloomberg.net